Way back in 1890, a good 28 years after The Grocer first hit news-stands, Law’s Grocer’s Manual was published. At 800 pages, it contained everything a budding grocer needed to know about opening a shop.
Almost 125 years later, Melrose & Morgan, who have spent 10 years operating foodie meccas in Hampstead and Primrose Hill, have released Good Food For Your Table - A Grocer’s Guide (£25, Saltyard Books, 23 October) packed with “knowledge gleaned from chefs, makers, farmers, importers, distributors, staff and customers.”
Nowadays, food books tend to be beautifully photographed behemoths, stuffed with food porn. This “contemporary grocer’s guide” is plain, simple and defiantly photograph-free. Starting with Bread, 19 chapters continue alphabetically up through dairy and meat before ending up with Vinegar. It’s comprehensive. And it’s pragmatic: for example, tips on curing poultry highlight the resulting shelf life extensions before the enhanced flavours.
It also comes with a nostalgic and gracious foreword by long-term customer Alan Bennett. He affectionately mentions that Melrose & Morgan is “sometimes a bit pricey” and has been nicknamed “Prada for the larder” by some. Certainly the cover price is somewhat artisan, at £25, but it’s cheaper on Amazon (£16).
More importantly than that, like any good grocer, does it deliver value for money? Well, for anyone desperate to drool over some lascivious close-ups of crackling, no. But for anyone looking to open a modern-day grocery store, then yes.